Novak Djokovic moved into position for a potential fourth trophy this season as he reached his fourth career final at the month ATP’s Monte Carlo Masters on Saturday with a 6-3 6-3 defeat of Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic, the world number one and form player this season with titles from the Australian Open plus the first two Masters 1000 events of 2015 at Indian Wells and Miami, advanced into his 33rd Masters final with a 97-minute display.
Nadal, eight-time champion in the principality, played with enthusiasm but appeared to still be suffering from the lack of confidence and elite fitness which has bothered him for months.
On Sunday, Djokovic will take an 18-2 record into the final against Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych, who deflated the finals dream of Gael Monfils 6-1 6-4.
Djokovic said he needed a top performance to go through against Nadal as he won his fifth match from the last six played between the two longtime rivals.
“I’m very happy with how I played against such a tough opponent. Rafa is the all-time best on the clay, it was not an easy match,” the Serb said.
“I played well, it was a relief to get this win. There was a lot of tension, it was tough to keep it all under control.
“I know the final with Tomas will be a different kind of match, but I’ll do my best to recover and get ready.”
Djokovic won the opening set after coming back from an early break down against Nadal, with the top seed claiming the set on a third set point.
The second pivoted on a massive 11-minute seventh game, which Djokovic won on a break for a 4-3 lead after Nadal lost a 40-0 lead.
World number one Djokovic closed out the victory two games later with another break of the Spaniard as Nadal saved a match point before falling victim to a cross-court winner.
Djokovic is bidding to become the first man to win the opening three Masters tournaments of a season and would win his fourth in a row – levelling with Nadal in that category – after also winning in November 2014 at Paris Bercy.
Against Berdych, Monfils showed little of the surprising form that took him to upset wins this week against second seed Roger Federer and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov.
Instead, the Frenchman slumped to 23 unforced errors and lost serve four times.
The first set was a command performance for Berdych, the Czech emerged with the 2-1 lead as the second set began with three straight breaks and took victory in 68 minutes.
Berdych will be playing in his third final of the season after losing title bids in Doha and Rotterdam.
Berdych will be competing in a fourth career Masters 1000 final and first since losing to Federer in Madrid three years ago. His only title in the series came at Paris Bercy in 2005.
“This year is going pretty well, I’m missing a trophy but I have another chance tomorrow: said Berdych. “I’ve put myself in the best possible position to be ready for it, be prepared.
“I’m having a great week so far, it’s all good and positive signs to me,” said the Czech who kept Monfils from becoming the first Frenchman into the final in the principality since Cedric Pioline, champion in 2000.
The win was the sixth out of seven for Berdych over Monfils.
Berdych has reached the final without losing a set as he plays the tournament for the 11th time.